SHR Day 14

SHR Day 14 – July 16
Big Pete Meadow
to South Lake Trailhead (Bishop, CA)
PCT Camp
to Green and Beige Feast Camp

Miles: 13.31
Gain: 3504ft
Loss: 2989ft
Passes: Bishop Pass (trail)

The second big chunk of the SHR is now complete. With packs that felt darn near empty, SpiceRack and I flew on trail over Bishop Pass and found ourselves in town, living out all our culinary fantasies. We feel beat up, but strong. And though we’ve found our rhythm on the SHR, we are ready for a break in Bishop. Time to rest the feet and the brains before the final push to Horseshoe Meadow.

With tacos and burritos on our minds, we got an earlier start than usual. With the help of our up-before-dawn CDT routine (read: Taylor Swift), by 6:30am we were all packed up and back on the trail, continuing our descent from Muir Pass into the depths of LeConte Canyon. The air was pleasantly cool and it would have been quiet if not for the rushing creek nearby. The granite peaks above blazed like beacons in the pure morning sun, but we hiked through deep shade below. Life in the canyon depths, including us hikers, moved with the tenderness of early morning, still waking up and reluctant to disturb the peace.

The mighty LeConte Canyon.

We hung a left turn across a fallen tree at the first junction, leaving the JMT just in time to avoid a huge group of camping hikers. Then up a veritable ladder of switchbacks, mercifully still draped in shade. The climb was relentless, yet we cruised. Spice pointed out that some of the larger steps that might have slowed her down a week ago, now glided by underfoot like a mellow speed bump. Yep, we were feeling strong. We were strong, and with just few snacks left to eat, our packs felt more like helium balloons than cumbersome burdens. The trail zigzagged between some magnificent juniper trees, some that I could remember from a trip in 2006. Their orangutan-orange, fuzzy bark burned like lava once the sun climbed high enough to light them up.

Wildflowers, waterfalls, and hikers passed us by as we topped the canyon wall and entered the relatively flat Dusy Basin. Like usual, it surprised me with how big and beautiful it was. Even the places I’ve visited before and regard with high esteem are grander than I remember them to be. Dusy Basin was no exception. Spice and I sucked on Skittles as we wound between lakes and creeks, marching towards the looming black mass of the Palisades, one of the highest and most rugged ridgelines of the Sierra Crest.

After one final water and gummy break, we churned up the last few sandy switchbacks to Bishop Pass. It was just 11:30am, and with only six miles left to the trailhead, the prospect of us catching a ride into town was virtually guaranteed. Down the other side of the pass, I was again amazed and disturbed by just how poorly my memory matched with reality. The trail down was way cooler than I remembered. How could I forget the colorful rock, the rugged cliffs, the emerald rims on sapphire lakes? How could I write off these miles as merely a necessary detour, enabling us to buy more food only?

I didn’t have much time to ponder these questions. Occupying the majority of my mental capacity was a more urgent question. Why was I so anxious to get to town? Historically, town stops have been hell for me, yet with just a few miles left to go I find myself helpless to resist the gravity of toilets and tap water. The final few miles pass with the excruciating slowness, and none of the sweetness, of chilled molasses.

Reaching the aspen tunnel is a dead giveaway that one is nearing South Lake Trailhead.

I didn’t find the answer to that question either, but Spice and I did make it to the trailhead at South Lake by our 2:30pm target. Right behind us were two other hikers that we’d been leapfrogging for the past 24-hours, Stripes and Jet Fighter, who joined us on the hot pavement of the parking lot to await a small miracle: the elusive, four-person hitchhike.

The charm of my companions worked wonders to overcome a local Bishopian’s sense of smell, who offered to take us all to town if we didn’t mind cramming in with his dog. All of us were trail-starved of fur-love and so eagerly agreed to the terms. The ride was fast, scenic, educational, and ended at the best place possible, Taco Bell. We thanked our ride (Thanks again, David!) before Spice and I dived into the sweet embrace of A/C and tacos.

Can we do it? One ride, four smelly hikers?

Two rounds of tacos later (it could have been four), we gathered our ludicrously heavy resupply boxes and brought them to the Travelodge, where we booked a room for two nights (it could have been four). A trip to Vons resulted in a dinner of sushi, frozen burritos, edamame, hash browns, guacamole, and chips (all vegan) that I served on grease soaked slices of cardboard, fresh from the microwave. A towel below protected our bedspread from the worst of the carnage.

Round two, ding ding ding.

With neither the time nor energy for laundry, Spice and I cranked the A/C and bundled into bed. With nothing to do besides rest and eat tomorrow, we didn’t set an alarm. The whirlwind of a zero day would pick up speed tomorrow, but for tonight at least, I was at peace. Happy with our trip on the SHR so far. Happy to be in Bishop with Spice. Happy for the rest. Happy that there is more to come.

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